For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities?his eternal power
and divine nature?have been clearly seen being understand from what has been
Could This All Be Just a Coincidence?
Note to self: include a section on deism Mr. Flew and the tendency of scientists
to move in this direction recently. To those willing to see it that way, the
physical universe and the wonders of life surely cry out that there is a creator.
Truly, the words of Romans 1:20 are confirmed by virtually every aspect of the
physical world. ?For since the creation of the world God?s invisible qualities?
his eternal power and divine nature?have been clearly seen, being understood
from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.? Without excuse, that is,
for not believing in the God who created all these things. On every level?from
the submicroscopic particles of physics, to the wonders of the visible natural
world, to the mind-numbing expanse of the cosmos?one can see the hand of a careful
designer. The Designer created a world both practical and beautiful. Full of
wonders to behold, designed to support very complicated forms of life, one can
see the Creator in every aspect of the world around us. Some clear aspects of design
have already been discussed, especially in the chapter on the creation of life.
This chapter will describe a number of other examples in nature which point
to the God who designed all these things.
One would think that if the atheistic assumption were true, then with the passage
of time, and with the accumulation of scientific knowledge, it would appear
more and more reasonable to assume, given what we know from science, that there
is a naturalistic, rather than a divine answer for why things are the way they are. In fact,
the exact opposite is the case. As physicists look at some of the facts to be
described in this section, many have felt the need to propose what is now known
as the anthropic principle. Those scientists who describe the anthropic principle have
come to the conclusion that the evidence for design is so strong, that it is
helpful to view the laws of nature as being designed with the specific intent
of creating a universe which can support advanced forms of life. In other words, many
scientists find the universe to be so finely tuned to support life that it is
easier to understand and predict the laws which govern nature by simply assuming
the reason the gravity force is as strong as it is, or that the electronic force
is as it is, or the forces which hold nuclei together are what they are because
that is what they needed to be in order to make life possible.
Atheists would scoff at the anthropic principle, of course, but the fact is
that many who hold to the anthropic principle do so only quite reluctantly.
Even those who do not agree that the universe was designed in order to support
life often make statements which appear diametrically opposed to the atheistic assumption.
On a personal note, I was initially quite reluctant to write this chapter.
Arguments from design can at times appear to use circular reasoning. Having
read a number of writers on the subject, I have occasionally found myself taking
the devil?s advocate position when hearing arguments for creation based on evidence
of design. One person?s argument for design is another person?s argument for
a natural process.
A few years ago, I was listening to a speaker on the subject whose opinion
I very much respect. In this presentation, the speaker used the arctic tern
as an argument for design. At the first hearing, this argument sounds quite
convincing. The arctic tern flies in an annual migration from the Arctic to
?the Antarctic regions and back again. This migration of the arctic tern of
about 18,000 miles annually is truly amazing. The bird flies from the fringes
of the Antarctic to the northernmost areas of North America in a single flight which
spans about nine thousand miles. For the entire journey, the tern passes over
an environment which contains nothing it is willing to eat. How, the speaker
asked, did the tern learn to fly over these many thousands of miles? Why woul
d a bird migrate thousands of miles away from any source of food? How could
it by accident just happen to discover an alternative source of food so far
away? The point of the speaker was that God created the arctic tern with both
the ability and the knowledge required to make this amazing journey.
Probably the audience was quite convinced by this argument, and it may
very well be true that in some subtle way, undetectable to science, God did
indeed program the arctic tern to know how to undergo this amazing migration.
To he honest, however, I find this argument unconvincing. To an evolutionary
biologist, it is not difficult at all to imagine a bird which at one time migrated
a relatively shorter distance; say from the central part of North America to the northern
?fringes of South America. This biologist might imagine the bird, for some reason having
to do with ecological factors, gradually being adapted to eating types of food
available in a colder environment over a number of generations. One could imagine
this bird species finding it easier to obtain the type of food it wants with
less competition by flying on an ever-increasing migratory route. Gradually,
the bird might find itself only able to eat foods available in areas separated
by a vast distance, but only available in the summer months in both the southern and
So perhaps God created the arctic tern from scratch with its amazing ability,
or perhaps God took an already existing bird and programmed it to be able to
make the vast migration. On the other hand, perhaps God allowed natural forces
to take their course, so that the arctic tern ?evolved? into what it is today. As mentioned,
one person?s argument for design, is another person?s argument for the wonders
of the working of natural systems. It seems, therefore, advisable to be skeptical
of arguments for design. Great effort has been made in this book to only present
arguments which will hold up to a reasonable level of skepticism. All life,
including the arctic tern, reflects design, but using the great migration of
the arctic tern as proof of design is not a strong argument.
A good number of the examples commonly used to prove design fall into this category.
They seem good at first, but they do not hold up to careful scrutiny by people
who are not inclined to believe in a supernatural designer. This fact is why
I was hesitant to write a chapter specifically on design. However, upon much careful
reflection on the topic, a number of arguments for design based on scientific
knowledge still emerge as convincing evidence that the universe was designed
to support life. As science has evolved, the growing number of examples of phenomena
which seem to imply the universe was designed has spawned the ranks of scientists
who hold to the anthropic principle. Some of these are discussed below.
CARBON, THE MIRACLE ELEMENT
An example of apparent design is found in the element carbon. Talk about
designer jeans, carbon is a designer element! Simply stated; if carbon did not
have the properties it has, there would be no life. The prop
erties of carbon
show clear evidence of design, and therefore of a creator. Why is that? To evaluate
this claim, one must consider the unique properties of carbon, and why it is
the only element available which can support the existence of life.
Living things are made up out of molecules. As has already been described, the
molecules out of which living things are made are large and complex. For example,
proteins, the molecules which control everything which occurs in cells, are
made up of tens of thousands of atoms all joined together to form a complex, three-dimensional
shape. The backbone of all these molecules is composed of carbon atoms. Why
carbon? Of the ninety or so naturally occurring elements, carbon is the only
one that has the properties which allow large, complex, three-dimensional molecules
to be synthesized. The properties of carbon allow for strings of dozens and
even hundreds of atoms to form. No other element has the property that long
strings of the atoms of that element can form into stable molecules. Carbon can
form ringed structures. It can form three-dimensional structures as well. Carbon
can form single and double and triple bonds with itself and with a number of
other atoms. All of these properties are unique to carbon, and all these properties
are absolutely necessary for life to exist. In the words of Spock, we truly
are ?carbon based units.?
Speaking of Star Trek, one of the original episodes of that series had Kirk
and the gang coming upon a monster whose molecular structure was based on silicon.
Spock said that this was very logical. The reason silicon is a ?logical? alternative
to carbon is that it is the only element, other than carbon, which can form a total
of four bonds, and which can therefore, in principle, be used to build three-dimensional
structures. Nevertheless, Spock?s claim that a silicon monster is logical does
not work. Silicon-silicon chemical bonds are very weak. It is impossible to build
a large molecule joined together by silicon atoms. The author is sorry if the
reader?s faith in Star Trek is diminished, but there never has been, nor will
there ever be a silicon-based life form.
Returning to the subject, if carbon did not have the properties it has, there
would be no life. If you do not believe this point, please find you nearest
biochemist, biologist or chemist and ask them if this claim is true. It is indisputable.
There is exactly one element with the properties that allow for life to exist.
Not two, one! Not zero, luckily for us. But is it luck? If some intelligent
being were designing the properties of electrons, protons and neutrons, and
therefore the properties of the atoms to allow for there to be living things, this
being would have to create at least one element capable to making large, complex,
flexible molecules. Recognizing the problem, God created carbon. Good going,
WATER. THE MIRACLE SOLVENT
Life requires a solvent. It requires a solvent with just exactly the properties
that water happens to have. In fact, if it were not for the existence of water
and its unique properties, there would be no life anywhere in the universe.
This is a strong statement, but it will hold up to the strictest scrutiny. The
existence of water is further evidence that there is an intelligent creator
behind the scenes intent on creating life.
So, what is so special about water? I am trained as a chemist. When I teach
introductory chemistry, I spend a great deal of time listing and describing
all the ways in which water is a unique substance. There are so many things
which are unique about water, the thought almost inevitably emerges that this really
neat molecule must have been specifically designed in order to support life.
One of the special properties of water is that for a molecular substance, it
is very sticky. Individual water molecules are strongly attracted to one another.
Water molecules consist of two hydrogen atoms bonded to a central carbon atom.
The molecule is bent at an angle of 105o. This bent shape (as opposed to linear,
180o) is essential to the unique properties of water. In fact, if water were a
linear molecule, there would not be life anywhere in the universe. More will
be said on this later. The reason water is ?sticky? is that the hydrogen-oxygen
bond is highly polarized. In other words, the electrons which are shared between the
hydrogen and the oxygen atom in the water molecule are not shared equally. Oxygen
atoms attract electrons strongly, compared to hydrogen, lending a partial negative
charge to the oxygen atom and a partial positive charge to the hydrogen atom
in the water molecule. See the picture below for an illustration of the polarized
structure of water.
Figure 10.1 The structure of water molecules and why they are ?sticky?.
Another factor in water?s stickiness is its shape. If water had a linear structure,
rather than bent, its symmetry would make it non-polarized, despite the oxygen-hydrogen
bonds in the molecule. As an example of this principle, the molecule carbon
dioxide, although it has fairly polarized carbon oxygen atoms, is linear and symmetric,
and therefore not polar. This non-polar molecule is therefore not sticky. Even
though carbon dioxide molecules have more than twice the mass of water molecules,
CO2 becomes a gas at over one hundred degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Carbon dioxide
is definitely not a molecule which could act as a solvent to support life.
When water molecules approach one another, the positively charged hydrogen atom
on one molecule sticks to the negatively charged oxygen atom on the other. Due
to factors beyond the discussion here, the O-H bond in molecules is the most
effective of all chemical bonds at creating this stickiness. The reader may be
saying to themselves ?so what? at this point. This unique stickiness of water
is what results in its amazing properties as a life supporting solvent.
For example, because water molecules are so sticky, water has a very high boiling
point for such a small molecule. If it were not for the stickiness of the molecules,
water would boil at something like ?200oF, way too low to support life. Besides,
the stickiness of water allows it to be a liquid over an unusually large temperature
range, an important factor in water?s ability to control climate.
Because water is so polar or sticky, it has another unique property. Water?s
polarity allows it to dissolve many minerals. There is no other molecular compound
besides water which is both liquid at the proper temperature range and able
to dissolve the ions such as sodium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium,
iron and so forth which are essential to life. Water is unique in that it can
dissolve both a great variety of molecular compounds and many ions. Chemists
know water as the ?universal solvent.?
The stickiness of water has an interesting effect on its solid phase (commonly
known as ice) as well. Because of the strong intermolecular attraction between
water molecules, the structure of ice is unusually loosely packed, with a lot
of space between the atoms. For this reason, water is one of only a very small
fraction of all substances which has the property that its solid floats in its
liquid. For virtually all substances, the solid sinks in the liquid. Why is
this important? If ice did not float on water, there would be an negative extreme
effect on the environment of the earth. In col
d weather, the ice, which floats
on the liquid water, provides an insulation to the unfrozen water below. If
ice sank, whenever sufficiently cold weather struck, lakes would freeze right to
the bottom, killing most life. This in itself would not be so bad, perhaps,
but one function of water is to act as buffer to limit the swings of global
temperature. If ice did not float on water, the temperature of the earth would
swing wildly, allowing for the possibility that during ice ages, the entire earth
could become frozen, killing off all advanced forms of life.
Water is truly a great temperature buffer. Because it is so sticky, water is
unique in that it takes a large amount of heat to change its temperature. It
takes an especially large amount of heat to vaporize or freeze water. Most people
are aware that the weather is much milder near the ocean than farther inland.
This is because good old sticky water is a great climate/heat buffer. In fact,
if there were no oceans of water to act as a giant heat buffer, there would
be no complex life forms on earth at all, because the surface temperature would
swing by hundreds of degrees annually.
There is no other compound in existence that comes even remotely close to having
the properties needed to be the solvent suited to support life. Just as with
carbon, the only element capable of supporting life, there is exactly one molecule
capable of being the solvent for living things. Not two, one! And luckily for us,
not zero either. But is it luck? If an extremely intelligent being were trying
to design the properties of matter just exactly right to allow for life to exist,
surely it would be forced to design a special molecule with properties just
like those of water. Good job, God! Imagine the power and the intelligence of
the being able not only to make something out of nothing, but also to imbue
the created matter with the correct properties to form water; the solvent for
DESIGN AND THE BIG BANG
Startling evidence for design is found when one looks at the Big Bang model,
as well. The outline of the Big Bang theory has already been described. In this
section it will be shown that some of the details of the physics of the Big
Bang reveal that the initial creation of the universe was fine-tuned to allow
for life. To quote from Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg, ?Life as we
know it would be impossible if any of several physical quantities had slightly
different values.? Weinberg goes on to relate that ?One constant does seem to
require incredible fine tuning.? These are the words of an avowed non-believer
Weinberg is referring to the total energy of the Big Bang. According to the
theoretical models for the Big Bang, if the total energy of the universe, created
at the Big Bang, had been either bigger or smaller than it was by just one part
in 1×10120, life would never have formed. That is if the total amount of energy
in the Big Bang had been different by one part in a thousand, billion, billion,
billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion, billion,
billion, billion, then no life would have ever formed. This is not just the word
of one noted physicist. The most respected cosmologist of our generation, Stephen
Hawking has described in detail this amazing coincidence which allowed the universe
to produce galaxies, stars, planets, and eventually life. Another noted astrophysicist
from the University of Chicago, Michael Turner, has used an analogy to describe
the amazing accuracy of how well tuned the universe is to producing life. ?The
precision? of the creation of energy in the Big Bang ?is as if one could throw
a dart across the entire universe and hit a bulls-eye one millimeter in diameter
on the other side.? As Hawking has described, if there was even infinitesimally
more energy in the Big Bang, matter would have never condensed in a way which
eventually allowed for the formation of galaxies, stars and so forth. On the other
hand, if the energy of the Big Bang had been infinitesimally smaller than it
was, the entire universe would have crashed in on itself in a relatively very
short time, never expanding out to a sufficient size to allow for the formation of
galaxies, stars, planets, and, of course, life.
This coincidence is so astounding that those who choose to hold to an atheistic,
naturalistic view have been forced to make an incredible proposal. Recently,
physicists have proposed that there are an unlimited number of parallel universes.
According to this model, each universe has slightly different laws. It is just
a huge coincidence that the universe we happen to live in was formed with just
the right properties to allow for life. Do these people have any direct evidence
of these parallel universes? Of course not. Why, then, do they propose these
parallel universes? Because the thought that our universe was carefully and
intelligently designed is repugnant to them. It is outside the range of possibilities
they are willing to consider. For many scientists, making the atheistic assumption,
the anthropic principle is rejected on philosophic principle.
The amount of energy in the universe is not the only evidence from the basic
laws of physics for design. As quoted above, Steven Weinberg mentions that there
are ?several physical quantities? which had to have a very specific value to
allow for a universe which includes life. These coincidental values are no secret
to physicists. They are the motivation for some to believe in the anthropic
principle, as mentioned above.
Among the physical quantities which are just right to support life, one could
include the strong nuclear force which holds nuclei together. If it had been
just slightly weaker, atoms larger than hydrogen would never have formed, and
there would be no life. If it had been just very slightly larger, only larger atoms
would have formed, and there would have been no hydrogen, no stars, no fusion
in stars, and therefore no life. Apparently, God calculated in his ?head? the
size of strong nuclear force required, and just set it at the proper value. Good going,
God! Can any human even imagine having the ability to set the strong nuclear
force to be just right?
Other cosmic coincidences (which are, of course, not coincidences at all, but
further evidence for design) include the size of the electromagnetic force,
which holds the electrons on atoms. If it had been just a little different,
then carbon and water would not have the required properties as described above.
One could also mention the size of the gravitational force (responsible for
the formation of galaxies, stars and planets), the amount of mass in the universe,
and the initial temperature of the Big Bang. All of these values are just
in the correct range to allow for life. How was the size of the gravity force
set? Physicists themselves are unable to explain why gravity is as strong as
it is. The anthropic principle, the idea that the universe was created with
?just the right natural laws to support life can explain it. In the article
mentioned above, Weinberg lists a number of other cosmic coincidences. These include the
extremely slight difference between the amount of matter and antimatter in the
original creation. The tiny asymmetry in the amount of matter and antimatter?
one part in ten trillion?allowed for matter, and eventually life to form.
The more one looks a
t scientific knowledge, the more one finds evidence that
virtually every aspect of how the universe, the solar system, the earth and
life were formed shows the work of a careful, intelligent, powerful creator
behind it all. Indeed, this chapter could stretch on with example after example
of design in nature. They are the fingerprints of God. The reader is left with
the job of going out there and looking for the marks of God in nature for themselves.
They will not have far to look.
1. Can you explain to yourself why the author does not accept the migration
of the arctic
that arctic terns are clearly designed)?
2. Can you think of any aspects of nature which, to you, show the fingerprint
 Steven Weinberg, ?Life in the Universe?, Scientific American, October, 1994.
 A more detailed discussion can be found in Gerald L. Schroeder, The Science
(Broadway Books, New York, 1997).